By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“LORD, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18,21-22)
With those words, Christ clearly tells us to be always merciful of everybody. Such attitude would truly make us like God as we are supposed to be. God forgives everyone, or at least offers it to everyone, including those who are openly opposed to him. It’s up to us to receive that divine offer.
If need be, we have to make a shout-out of this word of forgiveness if only for everyone to follow this clear commandment of Christ: “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” (Lk 6,37) He reiterated this injunction when he said: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15)
It’s clear therefore that we can only be forgiven if we also forgive others. This injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.
This should be very clear to all of us. We have to be merciful ourselves, because God who is our Father is merciful. Christ himself said it openly: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6,36)
In the Holy Bible, numerous references to the mercy of God are made. His mercy is forever, is eternal. He is rich in mercy. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive. We have to forgive others not only seven times, but seventy times seven. This obviously alludes to the biblical passage that even a just man falls seven times in a day.
When Christ was asked to teach his disciples how to pray, he gave them the now-famous “Our Father” that includes, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
More importantly, he offered forgiveness for those who crucified him. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” These are words that are meant not only for those who participated directly in his crucifixion, but also for all of us.
We have to remember that as one psalm puts it is when we are merciful as God is merciful that we would attain the fullness of redemption. Psalm 130,7 tells us where we can find this guaranteed mercy and fullness of redemption. It is with God who has deigned to become man and to assume all our sins, rendering death to them with his own death on the cross, and conquering them with his resurrection.
We should have no doubt whatsoever that on the part of God, everything is already given to us so we can be what we ought to be—children of God, sharers of God’s life. Any doubt in this regard can only come from the devil.
Whatever happens in our life, as long as we are open to God’s will and ways, even if that openness is unarticulated, God’s mercy will always have the last word. Our redemption is assured. God’s will is clearly for our redemption, though we, free as we are, can reject that divine will.